Defense wins championships

CLEMSON - Hard-nosed, in your face defending became the calling card of Clemson basketball in year one under head coach Brad Brownell. And there's little doubt that mentality will have to continue in 2011-12.

The Tigers allowed 61.4 points a game last season, a mark that was tops in the ACC and 24th best in country.

Associate head coach Rick Ray recently told that the mentality won't change this winter.

"I think that's one thing that we talk about -- we're going to hang our hat on being a good defensive team," he said. "If you're not ready to buy into that then you probably shouldn't come to Clemson."

It's an attitude the entire staff has brought to Clemson.

"We're going to have to out-work people," said assistant coach Earl Grant. "That's got to be our biggest advantage. Every night we step out on the floor, we're going to out-work you. That's going to have to be our staple."

The North Charleston-native likens that "blue-collar" approach to the community that surrounds the program.

"It's close-knit. Everybody's got to pull together, fight and embrace teamwork, embrace community and take pride in doing that," he said. "That's the culture around here. That's what I perceive it to be.

"If you get kids that are willing to be about that, you've got a chance to win every time you step on the floor."

When the staff hits the recruiting trail, they look for prospects who have or are willing to adopt that same mindset.

"We're going to defend," Grant said. "Practices are going to be demanding. We just try to get that in their head. The guys that feel that they can buy into doing that, or say they can buy into doing that, it's going to be a good fit for us."

The coaches think they have that with the five-man class that was signed for this season.

Ray remembered back to their February game at Miami, which 2012 signee T.J. Sapp attended.

"When they see it on TV, they see it a little bit," Ray said. "When they say it in person, it makes a huge difference...Sapp called me afterwards and was like, 'Man, it's so different when you're in person.'"

And he's confident that the Tigers' style of play will help translate to more wins in the future.

"I just think, the way that we defend, the way that we take care of the ball, the way that we instill discipline in our program gives you a chance to win every time you set foot on the court," Ray said.

Come mid-November, Clemson will use that calling card once again in hopes of reaching a school-record fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament. Top Stories